Two days and change away from the MLB trading deadline, it's still not clear what direction the Pirates will go in their search for bats to bolster their anemic lineup. They've been connected to big names like Carlos Beltran, Hunter Pence and Carlos Pena over the last month, but as the hours tick off, it appears the club has its sights set on more average targets. Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto is reporting three players in particular as top targets.
We touched on Kubel a bit here at SB Nation Pittsburgh yesterday when ESPN's Jayson Stark reported the Pirates have interest in him. While his numbers are good, Stark pointed out the Twins still consider themselves in the American League Central race, so he probably won't come cheap. You have to figure the Pirates understand that, however, if they're still interested in making a push for him. Perrotto says elsewhere in his Twitter feed that Kubel is the No. 1 target right now. We'll see soon if that leads to anything.
As far as Lee and Kotchman go, they're hardly the most desirable replacements for Lyle Overbay at first base, but if they can offer even a little more production on the cheap, the Pirates have to consider them.
Lee, once a star with the Cubs, has taken a bit of a nosedive since moving to the American League with the Orioles. He's hitting just .248 with 11 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .703 OPS in 82 games with Baltimore, but compare that to Overbay's .230/7/35/.644 line and Lee is a pretty clear upgrade as it stands. If, as Perrotto says in his Twitter feed, he'd benefit from a move back to the National League as the Pirates hope, he could offer an even more significant boost to the offense.
Kotchman, once a highly touted prospect in the Angels organization, is finally beginning to realize some of his potential as a 28-year old with the Rays. Though he's light on home run power with just four long balls in 2011, his .325 batting average and .834 OPS would be a real shot in arm for the Bucs at first base.
Overall, these names aren't flashy, but if the Pirates could nab Kubel and one of these first basemen, they'll have done fairly well for themselves in this sellers market. Make no mistake, they're no all-stars, but they're all above replacement level, which is about all the Bucs are getting from Overbay at first base and Xavier Paul and Garrett Jones in the outfield with Jose Tabata and Alex Presley injured.